Saturday, 4 July 2009

Stage 6 - Union Street to Bodiam (8 miles)

We met at Bodiam early morning and travelled back to Union Street to begin our walk just before 9am. It was forecast to be a hot sunny day, so Poppy was wearing her new cooler coat (which we had trialled successfully in the Lake District the week before).

Heading off south from the B2087 at Union Street

The route started virtually opposite our previous finish point, and, leaving the road, we followed a track gently downhill for about ½ km, past an oast house to another fine dwelling called Quedley.

Fine Oast


Passing a flagstaff, we took a grassy path on the left and followed it round to the right, before emerging onto a golf course. The golfers round here obviously like a Saturday lie-in as there was no-one around. We followed a tarmac drive for about another ½ km and then were a little unsure of the route as we couldn’t see any waymarks.

Empty golfcourse
Hidden path

The guide book (which I wasn’t following closely at the time) actually says to “bear right, to the left of a large silver birch tree, to a signpost at the edge of a wood”. I don’t recall if the silver birch tree was there or not, but by back-tracking a little, we found the entry into the wood, which was quite well camouflaged!

Descending through the wood

Continuing downhill to the field corner

We followed a delightful path through the trees, and then, after entering a lush meadow, took the left hand path to continue downhill to the field corner. After crossing a footbridge we again temporarily lost the path, and turned left through a gate and then right up the field boundary, then right again at the top. This brought us back on track and to the end of the overgrown path we should have taken. Neither of us can remember seeing any form of sign or obvious path at the bottom of the hill.
The path up which we should have come

The back of Roughfield

Continuing uphill through another wood, we crossed a number of stiles in quick succession and emerged on a track near the back of a large building called Roughfield. From the angle we were seeing it, it looked a bit like ugly holiday park chalets, but it appears to be a reasonably fine building from the front, and is apparently used as a wedding venue (judging by the website for Rishi & Jo’s wedding - whoever they are - which I stumbled across on the internet, courtesy of Google).

Roughfield from the front

Following the drive

We turned left along the drive and followed it uphill until close to the top, where we turned right into a field to follow the boundary of a property (with the wonderful name of Mumpumps) to the A21. Turning right, we followed the main road approximately south for about 100m to a gate near Roughfield Farm.
Circumnavigating Mumpumps

A wall of frisky bullocks

After crossing a couple of empty fields we emerged into one containing a large herd of young cattle. They were actually in an adjacent field, but had access to our route through an open gateway. They were interested in us the moment they saw us, and Anne bravely volunteered to hold back and keep them at bay, while I made my escape with both dogs, down the hill along the edge of the field.
Safe and sound

Once I was safely over the stile at the bottom, I called out to Anne, and she made her cautious way down the field to join me. The bullocks were still very curious and frisky, even with the dogs out of the picture, and once or twice I had to warn Anne that some of them looked like they might begin a charge. Fortunately, Anne made it in one piece out of the field. At the time we were relieved the situation had not turned uglier. Little did we know what was going to happen later in the walk!
Contemplating the onward route

We continued briefly on a grassy track, and then bore left along a rather under-used and overgrown path diagonally across the meadow to resume a roughly easterly direction, now with a wood on our left. At the end of the wood we continued across the field to a gap in the hedge.

The waymark directing us into this...............

Impassable path

Here the map suggests that the route bears right and follows a track to Brookgate Farm. Well, there may once have been a sunken path between the hedges, but this was now completely overgrown and the only route now open to us was to continue through the gap and then bear right along the field boundary.
Lush meadow

Checking the route
Arriving at the farm complex, we were a little surprised to find the route took us so close to some of the outbuildings, but it was waymarked, so we proceeded with confidence up the drive towards the farmhouse. The path then turned right and left round the house, to emerge into a wood.
Brookgate Farmhouse

Through the wood
By a large wooden bridge on our right, we found a smaller footbridge which was rather hidden in the foliage and crossed this instead. We then continued through a number of meadows and entered a small patch of woodland.
Footbridge hidden in the undergrowth

Easterly route across fields

Turning right over a footbridge, we continued through a number of fields, maintaining our easterly direction, to emerge on a lane. Continuing virtually straight across we now entered an extensive cherry orchard. Most of the fruit was netted, but a few branches were sticking through the nets, and as the fruit was ripe…………. Well, you have to, don’t you?
Cherry orchard

A spot of scrumping
After leaving the orchard the route continued through woodland, and then emerged into another fine meadow where the church spire of the village of The Moor was visible above the tree-line. A zig-zag across a couple of other fields (where Zuka took off after an interesting scent), brought us to a track that bypassed the buildings of Rowlands Farm and eventually brought us to a lane. Turning right we soon reached the village, which appears to be some kind of suburb of Hawkhurst.
The spire of The Moor church

Entering the village

Before continuing to the A229, we made a quick diversion across the vast village green to the village shop to buy some much needed ice-creams. After retracing our steps, we continued down a lane to cross the main road, and then went along a minor road past the church of St Laurence. Here we met a fine duck posing on a wall. For a moment I had thought it was a realistic garden ornament.
Village green and local shop

Quack, quack!

After crossing the B2244 we continued down Stream Lane, and followed it round to the right, before taking a gravel drive on the right to East Heath. Passing the house, we continued along an enclosed path between fields.

Lovely oast house - East Heath

Poppies along the driveway
After crossing a bridge, we began to follow the field boundary up the hill. The field was being grazed by suckler cows and calves, and Zuka (although not in any way threatening the animals), obviously went too close for comfort to one of the calves. The mother cow became very aggressive and repeatedly tried to attack poor Zuka. Zuka kept returning to Anne for safety, which put Anne in danger too. I tried to keep out of the way with Poppy (on a short lead) by keeping to the ditch right alongside the hedge. Our saviour came in the form of a man from a house at the top of the hill who must have heard Anne’s screams. He held the cows at bay whilst we made our escape up the hill and through the gate onto a lane. I have no idea whether the man owned the cows or not, but without his help I really don’t know how this episode would have ended. It was VERY frightening.
"We're coming to get you!"

Killer cow, safely behind bars!
Once our knees had stopped shaking we turned left and followed the lane for a short distance until it turned left. We then took a private road on the right to Conghurst Farm, where the route continued between the farm buildings and then followed a track downhill. Shortly before the bottom we turned sharp right and continued our gentle downhill stroll to cross a river and then ascend again towards Northlands. There were fine pastoral views all around.

Conghurst Farmhouse

Fine pastoral views
We turned left in front of the farm buildings and then right just past the stable block. Then it was down to another stream and up again to Lower Northlands Farm, where we passed through a swanky new metal kissing gate to reach the private road, which we followed for about ½ km to a lane.
Smart new waymark sign, complete with SBP flashes

Just before reaching the lane we chatted briefly to a friendly couple in their front garden. They admired Poppy’s cooler coat, and offered our dogs some water, but we were now coming towards the end of our walk and we still had some supplies left
Garden surrounded by hops

Turn left to the lane
After crossing the road we took a path uphill diagonally across a large field towards the buildings of Court Lodge Farm. Crossing the drive we entered a small vineyard and descended towards Bodiam Castle which had finally come into view.
View north back down the hill towards the lane
Descending through the vineyard towards Bodiam
When we reached the bottom of the field we struggled to find the way through to the castle grounds. Checking the guide book, we had missed a separate path along the field edge, which started half way down. Now it meant getting the dogs over a three foot high chicken wire fence to reach the overgrown stile.
The castle and lawns
Once in the grounds we swung right round the castle itself, where there were quite a few families picnicking on the grass. Bodiam was one of the last great mediaeval castles to be built, and is now in National Trust membership. I have to say I have never been inside, and although both Anne & I are NT members, it would not have been possible today as we had the dogs with us.
Built to resist attack

The Castle Inn, Bodiam
After a brief stop at the shop & toilets we continued out of the grounds and along the road back to our waiting car. Then it was back to collect Anne’s car from Union Street before a quick, late lunch at my house and an afternoon at the Eridge Horse Trials where we chalked up a few more miles walking round the undulating course.
Crossing the River Rother on the road bridge
This section of the SBP provided an extremely pleasant walk, with some lovely views of the surrounding countryside. The last few kilometers was a gently switchback over rolling hills. The waymarking had been a little more hit & miss on this section, although there were still quite a few SBP signs. Obviously the cow incident(s) slightly marred the experience and I will certainly be much more nervous passing them in fields in the future.

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